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Archive for category Asif Haroon Raja (Retd):Pakistan Army

Fall of another superpower in Afghanistan   by Brig.Gen(Retd) Asif Haroon Raja

Fall of another superpower in Afghanistan

 

Asif Haroon Raja

 

Afghanistan occupied under fake charges

When George W. Bush decided to invade Afghanistan in order to avenge the attacks in New York and Washington allegedly masterminded by Osama bin Laden (OBL) led al-Qaeda on 9/11, the US was the most powerful country of the world and it had carved out a New World Order to monopolize the world for next 100 years. After its capture in Nov 2001, Afghanistan was converted into a permanent military station. Northern Alliance forces supported by the air umbrella provided by the Western forces captured the most impoverished country, singing the song of freedom and liberty, promising to make it democratic and prosperous and to emancipate the Afghan women by promoting education and liberalism. The dancing and cheering crowds in Kabul welcomed their Western liberators and thanked them for freeing them from the clutches of the brutal Taliban. The happiest were the Afghan Northern Alliance forces who came riding on the shoulders of the western forces.  

 

Hidden Objectives. The major objectives of the US were:-

Destabilise China’s Xinjiang Province by stoking Uighur and ETIM movement. Disrupt China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and effectively contain China. Unsettle resurging Russia. Denuclearize Pakistan and make it a compliant state. Affect a regime change in Iran. Monitor the unravelling of the Middle East after capturing Iraq, again on false charges. Demonise Islam.

 

The US also planned to make India a key player in Afghanistan, economically and militarily fortify it to become a bulwark against China and a policeman of the Indo-Pacific region. Pakistan was taken on board as a tactical partner for the achievement of its short term objectives and its nuclear teeth were to be extracted covertly.

History of Al-Qaeda & OBL

30, 000  Mujahids assembled by the CIA from different Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia, were brought to FATA, chosen as a base of operation in 1981, to beef up the strength of Afghan/Pakistan Mujahideen and to fight the Soviet forces in Afghanistan. The war was won by the Afghan Mujahideen, helped by Mujahids from other countries including FATA tribesmen, and fully supported by the ISI. Not a single American or European soldier took part in the ten years war. After the war, not only Pakistan and the Mujahideen were abandoned by the US, the latter were not accepted by their respective countries. They had to reside in Afghanistan and in FATA. (Today the US is worried about the settlement of the pro-Afghan regime and the US Afghans who didn’t part in the war, and intend to shift 18000 Afghan interpreters, who had worked with them, all-told 80,000 with families, by July 2021).

The holy warriors under OBL named as Al-Qaeda by the CIA were declared as terrorists in 1997 and were hounded after they attacked American targets in two African countries and the Gulf of Aqaba in reaction to their relinquishment. The CentCom under Gen Zinni attacked Al-Qaeda base in Afghanistan with cruise missiles from a naval warship deployed in the Arabian Sea in 1998 but missed OBL. Since this outfit was on the hit list, it was promptly blamed for the 9/11 attacks. No proof of Al-Qaeda’s involvement has been furnished to this day. Not a single wanted militant was killed in the massive Tora Bora bombing in Dec 2001 in which not even a lizard survived. Suffering from acute kidney disease, OBL slipped into North Waziristan and next to Haripur. It was widely reported in 2005 that he had died, after which the biggest manhunt ever launched went cold. For sure, he was completely cut off from Al-Qaeda and posed no threat to the USA. Reportedly, he was killed by the US Navy Seals on May 2, 2011, in a house in Abbottabad, but the story of his killing woven by the USA left many lingering doubts about its authenticity and it is not certain whether it was OBL or his son, or a dummy. Dumping the dead body in the sea secretly raised many questions which have not been answered. Most of the Naval Seal members who had taken part in Operation ‘Get Osama’ died either in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan or were killed by mysterious hands.      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo- Courtesy Al Jazeera

 

 

 

After taking the credit of killing OBL over whom $ 25 million head money had been announced, President Obama proudly declared in 2012, that Al-Qaeda had been effectively disrupted, dismantled and destroyed. In actuality, it was weakened mainly by Pakistan security forces by netting over 600 senior and middle-order leaders. They were handed over to the CIA for onward transfer to Guantanamo Bay. The majority had shifted to Arabian Peninsula in 2004/05 after the invasion of Iraq by western forces in March 2003 and had formed APAQ under Al-Zawahiri.

Bounce back by Taliban

The Taliban under Mullah Omar who had taken active part in Jihad against the Soviets and had lost an eye, ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 and had made the lawless country stable and peaceful. He refused to hand over OBL, whom he treated as his guest, without furnishing proof of his involvement, and on account of the injunctions of Islam and demands of Pashtunwali. On the insistence of Pakistan, he agreed to hold his trial in Saudi Arabia or any other country under Islamic laws. The US rejected his reasonable demands since they had no proof and 9/11 was an in-house drama.

In the wake of the relentless carpet bombing of the invaders, Mullah Omar in consultation with his Majlis-e-Shura wisely decided to carry out a tactical withdrawal into FATA in Nov 2001 to save the people and the country from further deaths and destruction; regroup and fight an insurrectional war. Within a year they started hitting back and thereon fought the invaders ceaselessly.

Unlike in the 1980s when the Mujahideen were backed by the whole free world under the USA, this time they fought single-handedly without any external support. By 2008, they managed to bounce back in a big way in their home bases of southern and eastern Afghanistan, from where they could target the invaders and collaborators in other parts of the country. Mullah Omar’s fighters in the south and Haqqanis under Sirajuddin in the east surged forward in coordination and started hitting targets in all parts of the country. They were ready to face the two troop surges ordered by Obama in 2009 from Iraq and the USA.

ISAF’s change of posture

Gen McChrystal who had earned fame untruthfully on account of defeating Al-Qaeda in Western Iraq, (but the feat, in reality, had been achieved by Sunni Iraqis), was posted to Afghanistan as ISAF Commander in 2008 to defeat the surging Taliban. With no dearth of airpower and resources, he requested for additional 100,000 ground troops which were granted by Obama. With over 140,000 combat strength, he launched a major offensive in 2009 in Helmand province which had become the hotbed due to the attraction of poppy trade, and where Britain had built the biggest cantonment near Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand, and named it Camp Boston. After Bagram airbase, it was the strongest fort of the occupiers. An auxiliary was launched in Kunar-Nuristan.

The ISAF suffered much more casualties in Helmand operations than they had suffered in previous years, and also met a big fiasco in Nuristan. Frightened by the mounting casualties, the General lost his offensive steam and hastened to adopt a rearward posture, confining the troops to the 8 military bases and terminating the use of boots on the ground. Support to the Afghan forces was restricted to air cover only. The defensive strategy enabled the Taliban to gain the initiative and a military edge that could not be regained by the occupiers and the collaborators.

Obama’s drawdown of troops

Obama after spelling out his Af-Pak strategy in March 2009, made Holbrooke the coordinator. He wanted hot pursuit operations by Special Operations Forces into FATA based on actionable intelligence, but Gen Ashfaq Kayani put his foot down, saying his forces were capable of dealing with the militant threat. Seeing that the war couldn’t be won, Obama rightly took the decision at the Brussels conference in December 2010 and ordered a troop drawdown in July 2011 which was to be completed by Dec 2014. With the achievement of major objectives of destroying Al-Qaeda and killing OBL, there was no justifiable reason for the US to prolong the drawdown of troops from July 2011 to Dec 2014. On one hand, Obama opened peace talks with the Taliban in 2011, on the other hand, he stepped up drone war and declared drones as his chosen weapon, the brunt of which fell upon Waziristan in Pakistan.

Pentagon and the spoilers prevailed upon Obama to sign a bilateral security agreement with the new unity regime of Ashraf Ghani-Dr. Abdullah in Sept 2016 by virtue of which a Resolute Support Group (RSG) of about 12000 troops were to stay in Afghanistan in all the airbases for another year, but the dates of their departure kept extending.  

Once the bulk of the 1, 40, 000 ISAF troops withdrew by Dec 2014, and the two power contenders of the unnatural unity government remained engaged in power tussle, the Taliban accelerated their spring offensives each year and kept gaining more and more space. Nothing was achieved by prolonging the occupation, except for prolonging the agony of the resistance forces, the occupying forces, the government forces and the civilians. But the Pentagon kept painting a rosy picture to befool the American public that the US was winning the war and all was okay.

Doha agreement

Trump, after adopting a hardline approach in 2017-18, reopened peace talks with the Taliban in Sept 2018 and signed a peace agreement at Doha on Feb 29, 2019. The Kabul regime was kept aside throughout the talks. While the Taliban agreed that they will not allow Afghan soil for terrorism against any other country, the US agreed to exit by May 1, 2021. It was also agreed that both sides would refrain from attacking each other, Taliban leaders would be removed from the UN blacklist, and the Taliban would start an intra-Afghan dialogue soon after the release of prisoners. 

By the time Trump left the White House, only 2500 US troops were left in Afghanistan. Commitments made with the Taliban had mostly remained unfulfilled. 3500 foreign troops had been killed and more than one lac casualties of civilians had taken place in Afghanistan since 2009.            

Violation of Doha agreement by Biden

No sooner Joe Biden took over in January 2021, the lobbyists sprang into action, some pro and some against the pullout by the due date. Those against the retreat spread scary stories. On March 29, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough used his high-profile “Morning Joe” show to suggest that pulling out would lead to Islamic State militants burning people in cages and the Taliban “cutting off the heads of young girls.”

Influenced by the Pentagon, Israel, Kabul regime, India and 18000 security contractors in Afghanistan, Biden decided to review the Feb 2019 Doha agreement and seemed inclined to delay the departure by six months or so under the plea of arriving at a political settlement. He blamed the Taliban for violating the Doha agreement and promoting violence.

The Taliban shot back saying they were strictly abiding by all the clauses of the agreement but it was the US that had not honoured it. They recalled that the US failed to get their 7000 prisoners out of 10,000 locked up in jails of all the 34 provincial capitals, it failed to remove Taliban leaders from the blacklist, and the US airpower struck their fighters during their fight with ANA.  

New date of Sept 11 given for the pullout

Those in favour of timely pullout began to mount pressure on Biden giving their set of arguments and reminding him of the homesickness and demoralization of the leftover troops in Afghanistan, increased trends of suicides, and tens of thousands suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After wrongfully blaming the Taliban for not abiding by the terms of an agreement that were refuted, sense prevailed and Biden acted before it was too late to avert the blowback by announcing on April 14 the new exit date of 11 Sept to end the longest war in US history. Four months extension was a bad idea, futile and at the cost of loss of face. It heralded the burial of the third superpower in the graveyard of Afghanistan. 

Extension of withdrawal date was taken by the Taliban as a violation of the agreement. They warned that after the deadline of May 1, they will be justified to launch their spring offensive with full force.

Hurried Departure from Bagram airbase

The foreign troops started exiting from May 1 onwards and the bulk of pullout was completed by July 3 to ensure participation of the troops in the US Independence Day on July 4. The largest and strongest Bagram airbase was the last to be vacated on the night of 2 July. The lights of the base were put off to conceal the exit which was undertaken in complete secrecy. Even the ANA Commander who was to take over the security and management of the airbase learnt about it 2 hours after their departure. No handing/taking took place nor any sendoff was arranged. The date and time of exit were kept secret to ensure the security of the US troops.

Fear was not from the Taliban who they knew would honor their commitment, but they were not sure of the loyalties of the ANA since they had been involved in Green over Blue attacks and several Americans had died at their hands inside Bagram base. 

One can imagine the fright and jangled nerves of the last batch of US soldiers during the first half of night 2/3 July impatiently wanting to sneak out safe and sound in one piece. Huge dumps of storage, arms, ammunition and sophisticated equipment (3,500,000 items) were left behind unattended. For two hours the base was looted by the people living in close vicinity and they managed to run away with whatever booty they could lay their hands on. It was a sorry spectacle, an inglorious withdrawal undertaken in panic and a disgrace. Only about 650 to 1000 American troops are now present in Kabul for the protection of American diplomats and Kabul airport. They are expected to leave by the end of August 2021.

Stepped up offensive of Taliban

The Taliban had already drawn a comprehensive war strategy and had divided the country into five commands (Western, Southern, Eastern, Northern and Central) with respective field commanders. Sirajuddin Haqqani and Mullah Omar’s son Mullah Yaqub are the two deputies of Haibatullah Akhundzada. Taking advantage of the speedy withdrawal of occupation troops, the Taliban stepped up their attacks after May 1, and in May-June captured 60-100 new districts including seven in Badakshan northeastern province and several districts in northern Kunduz province. . At several places, the ANA surrendered without putting up resistance and handed over military equipment. Well over 1000 ANA troops bolted to Tajikistan from Badakhshan leaving behind a huge quantity of arms, ammunition, equipment, tanks, armoured cars and vehicles.

Badghis province including its capital Qila Nau fell to the Taliban on July 6, which is the first urban centre to fall and will not be the last. In the remaining half a month of July, and 4 weeks of August, the Taliban are likely to capture many more districts/cities and tighten the noose around major cities including Kabul. Ultimately the centre of gravity will reside in Kabul.

The Taliban now control 85% of Afghanistan’s territory including 270 of 398 districts. They have succeeded in dominating all the major highways and almost all major cities are under their siege. With such speedy and easy successes, the Taliban stopped the intra-Afghan dialogue and got wholly focused on exploiting the momentum gained and capturing as much territory in the shortest possible time and stand on a strong bargaining position.

Having gained control over Sher Khan Killi in a district in Kunduz, which is a dry port on the border with Tajikistan, the Taliban are now in control over the sole crossing point between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Likewise, Islam Qila crossing point in Farah province bordering Iran, three crossing points of Torkham, Chaman and Spin Boldak into Pakistan, Torghundi into Turkmenistan, and the one into Uzbekistan have also been seized. The Wakhan corridor is in their grasp. The Taliban recovered Rupees 3 billion from the office of Afghan intelligence Col near the entry gate at Chaman, which was meant for payment to the proxies. 

With all the transit points used for trade with other countries and also the inter-provincial crossing points in their control, the Taliban have started earning billions from custom duty and toll tax to run the administration by shadow governors and to dispense justice through Qazi courts.

The Taliban will prefer to throttle the cities and the government rather than head-on attacks. This has become evident from the seizure of oil tankers moving to Kabul and other big cities by the Taliban to deny fuel to the ANA vehicles, tanks, helicopters and jets and thus force them to surrender.

With the acquisition of surface to air SAM anti-air launchers as well as anti-tank FGM 148 Javelin rockets, the Taliban are now in a position to strike ANA’s attack helicopters and tanks. One helicopter was recently shot down and seven ANA pilots were killed. Sensing that the Taliban are now in possession of long-range rockets and might be supplied drones by Iran, the US has installed an air defence system at the airport. Indian pilots flying Afghan air force helicopters and India having promised to supply 21 helicopters would now be thinking differently

Bounded by the Doha agreement, the Taliban refrained from attacking the foreign troops. Had they attacked them and caused fatalities and injuries, could Biden afford to accept responsibility for more deaths and that too without any tangible results? It was quite obvious that when 1, 40,000 strong ISAF couldn’t reverse the tide from 2009 to 2019, what could 2500 troops achieve.

 

Lessons from history

Learning from history, the Taliban have activated their political and diplomatic fronts and have sent their delegations to Moscow, Tehran, Beijing, Islamabad, and capitals of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, assuring them that they are against bloodshed. China and Turkmenistan’s concern would be the ETIM and that of Tajikistan IMU. The Taliban have stated that they will not allow cross border terrorism, do not war with any neighbour, will maintain friendly relations with them, will ensure safe, secure and strong Afghanistan, will not allow bloodshed of the Afghans, and are keen to rebuild the country, and would welcome the international community to develop the war-torn country.

They have adopted a forgiving attitude and are welcoming the Afghan troops surrendering to them. They have assured all uniformed personnel with job surety. They have already indicated their leniency towards the education of girls and have also said that the future government will be all-inclusive, and the system of governance will be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people. So far no case of killing or torture or humiliation of the surrendered troops has been reported. All hospitals, schools, and administrative bodies have been allowed to remain functional. A department of public works has been opened which is busy constructing/repairing roads and bridges all over the country. All this indicates that the Taliban are maintaining a happy balance between their military, political and diplomatic strategies and are projecting themselves as seasoned, well versed and balanced.

Respecting the coming Eidul Azha, the Taliban announced on July 15 a 3-month ceasefire which will be subject to the Afghan regime agreeing to release their 7000 prisoners and the US removing their leaders from the blacklist. These are not new demands but are contained in the Doha agreement. It is a smart move since it will placate the Taliban fighters, shift the ball into the court of the other side, allow the Taliban to consolidate its gains in the captured areas, and also will refrain the ANA from launching counter-attacks to recover some of the lost regions.     

The threat of isolation.

In response to the pressure exerted upon the Taliban that they will be ostracized by the international community if they refuse to let go of their resolve to establish an Islamic Emirate instead of the Islamic Republic, and shirked from establishing a broad-based government inclusive of the incumbent regime in Kabul, or if they take over Kabul by force, they say that governed by the pulls of geo-economics, the world needs Afghanistan, while they could do without the support of the world as they had done in their previous rule. They said that the Doha agreement was by itself a certificate of world recognition.   

Role of spoilers

 

The tottering Afghan regime, dejected India and the biased western media are collectively spreading scary stories and demeaning the Taliban that they are responsible for the violence and instability and are non-cooperative to restore peace. To tarnish the Taliban’s policy of forgiveness and announcement of general amnesty to all, a story is in circulation that the Taliban killed 22 Afghan commandos in their captivity. The news was denied by the Taliban, saying that after losing the battle, the commandos were caught while they were trying to cross into Turkmenistan and they are with them as guests.

 

In order to hide their embarrassment, the government officials of Afghanistan are spreading false news that Pakistan army special units are taking part in operations with the Taliban against the ANA. They also allege that the PAF is providing close support to the Taliban in certain areas. Going further, they allege that the PAF has warned ANA and air force that any attempt to dislodge the Taliban from Spin Boldak will be repelled by PAF.

The propagandists in Afghanistan and their western backers look the other way to the double-dealings of India. India’s two C-130s were sent to Kandahar on July 10 -11 to evacuate their stranded diplomats and RAW operatives. On each day, 40 tons of war munitions consisting of 120 mm mortars, 122 mm artillery shells and small arms ammunition was offloaded for use by the ANA. On one hand, India is bending over backwards to win the friendship of the Taliban and has sent its delegations to Doha, and on the other hand, it is supplying arms to the ANA to fight the Taliban.   

 

The US legacy of failures

 

The Americans are leaving a legacy of failures. They could neither defeat nor contain the Taliban nor were in a position to stay on or exit safely. They could not develop the country, alleviate poverty and reduce illiteracy. They also failed to end corruption and improve the governance of the regime it installed in Kabul, and couldn’t sufficiently train the ANA and inculcate desired motivation and will to be able to fight the rag-tag Taliban. A small percentage of the elite and the ruling regime got rich while the vast majority still live in abject poverty. Not a single objective could be accomplished. The US earned nothing from this ill-conceived venture except for losing grace, respect and incurring a huge financial loss. It has shown the world that there has been yet another war that the US couldn’t win.

War losses

 

The foreign soldiers killed in Afghanistan — almost 3,500 of them, including 1,892 American combatants — have died for nothing.  The entire war has been a disgraceful catastrophe.

Cost of Afghan war $ 2.26 trillion; human cost 241000; refugees 2.7 million; persons displaced 4 million; to train one soldier in Afghanistan $175,000 and salary $ 45000; expenses of technology, research and vehicles $ 300,000 per soldier; miscellaneous expenses $ 1.5 million per soldier; guns & equipment $28,000 per soldier. A soldier cost $ 2 million to the US exchequer. It doesn’t include the expenditures on treating 66000 PSDs cases, thousands of injured and crippled, or the amount spent on bribes and covert operations.  After recklessly spending so much, Afghanistan was left worse off than before.

Afghan urbanites in panic

The urbanites in Afghanistan are in panic and are spending sleepless nights fearing how the Taliban would deal with them. They are trying to flee the country; hundreds are lined up daily outside the embassies seeking visas. They are thoroughly disappointed and disillusioned with the American forces, and feel they have been left high and dry at the mercy of the marauding Taliban.

Elbowed by the faltering Afghan regime, few hundred women came out on the streets in some cities holding guns and placards and chanting anti-Taliban slogans, in their bid to stir up demoralized Afghan forces. A rally of non-Pashtuns was also stage-managed to show to the world that the people are against the Taliban and the situation is getting ripened for a civil war. Historically, the liberals and seculars have mostly welcomed the invaders and became their loyalists, or fled the country, and seldom took up arms.       

Iran and Pakistan’s importance

Iran which sits on the mouth of the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the Indian Ocean is important for China for the extension of CPEC into Middle Eastern and African markets and beyond. For this purpose, Beijing signed $ 450 billion long term strategic agreement with Iran and managed to throw out India from the Chahbahar project and the railway line project connecting Zahidan with Helmand and beyond in Afghanistan. The agreement included the stationing of 5000 Chinese troops on Iranian soil.

China eager to fill the power vacuum

After the departure of the US, China is anxious to fill the vacuum left behind by the US in Afghanistan. It is already in close liaison with the ruling regime in Kabul and the Taliban. It had been persuading Ashraf Ghani since 2016 to join the BRI but he was reluctant due to American and Indian factors. After the Doha agreement, the Chinese officials were constantly in touch with the Taliban and found them receptive. The CPEC is the flagship project of the BRI, which cannot attain its optimum economic potential without taking Afghanistan in the loop. 

For China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran are equally important for the success of the CPEC, and in this regard peace and stability in neighbouring Afghanistan, which is contiguous to Pakistan and three Republics of Central Asia is essential in order to draw maximum benefits from the six mineral-laden Central Asian States.

China is keen to build a highway connecting Peshawar with Kabul to connect Afghanistan with CPEC and is looking forward to laying road infrastructure, railway lines and gas/oil pipelines.

Both China and Pakistan can jointly do a lot to develop the war-ravaged country. China must also be eagerly eyeing the mineral resources of Afghanistan, which the US couldn’t extract.

Turkey’s insistence on defending Kabul airport

Turkey has been part of the coalition taking part in the war on terror in Afghanistan. Since 2007, its 500 troops have been defending Kabul airport and are still there. Being part of NATO, Erdogan offered to continue performing this role after the departure of the US troops. He asked the US to provide financial, political and diplomatic support. He also asked for Hungary and Pakistan to provide additional support. Probably Erdogan has made this offer hoping that the US would remove sanctions imposed over the installation of the Russian S-400 air defence system in Turkey, facilitate Turkey’s membership of EU, and overlook Turkey’s intrusion in the eastern Mediterranean for oil and gas exploration.

The Taliban have however reacted strongly stating that if the Turkish troops didn’t withdraw by Sept 11, it will be against the Doha agreement and the violators will be branded as occupiers and dealt with accordingly. They said that they are quite capable of managing and defending Kabul airport. 

Prospects of civil war

In my view, the spoilers of peace are drumming up a fake narrative of civil war, refugee influx and all regional countries getting affected by the intensified instability in Afghanistan under the Taliban. What could be worse than what has been experienced by the Afghans and Pakistan during the 20-year war on terror? The situation would gradually calm down after August 31 provided the spoilers are kept at bay and the Taliban allowed to restore peace and order, and Pakistan plays its cards sagaciously. Pakistan should avoid going the extra mile to help the illegitimate Kabul regime which is pro-India and anti-Pakistan, merely to please the US and in the bargain dishearten the Taliban. In case the situation becomes explosive in Afghanistan brewed up by the spoilers, there is a possibility of China deploying its peacekeeping force in the war-torn country.

Pakistan’s response

Instead of reaching out to the Taliban and extending support to them in their testing times when the whole world seems to have ganged up against them, Pakistan has teamed up with others to maximize pressure upon them and is creating hurdles in their way. It looks as if Pakistan is friendlier with its adversaries. It has been constantly pressuring the Taliban to enter into an agreement with the US-installed regime in Kabul which the Taliban view as collaborators and illegitimate.    

The loaded statement of the Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid is evocative and says it all. The last sentence of his interview to a Pakistani TV channel was, “If our decisions were in the hands of Pakistan, the USA would have succeeded in its mission a long time back, forcing us to surrender and after tying our hands and legs, handed us over to others”.

The writer is a retired Brig Gen, he took part in the epic battle of Hilli in the 1971 War with India, defence & security analyst, international columnist, author of five books, his sixth book under publication, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, Member CWC PESS & Think Tank. asifharoonraja@gmail.com       

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Talibanization by Brig(Retd) Asif Haroon Raja, Pakistan Army

Talibanization

Asif Haroon Raja

Taliban movement

 

 

 

In reaction to the infighting and power tussle between the seven warring Mujahideen groups in the aftermath of defeat and ouster of Soviet forces in Feb 1989, the Taliban movement led by Mullah Omar erupted in 1994 in Kandahar, which was his birthplace. By Sept 1996 they managed to take control over 93% of Afghanistan’s territory including Kabul and they established Islamic Emirate. A small toehold in the north was held by Northern Alliance (NA) forces under Ahmed Shah Masood. Only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and UAE recognized the regime in Kabul, while Russia, the West, Iran and India supported NA. The NA army and air force were trained in Iran by Iranian and Indian instructors.  

Peace restored

Strict Islamic laws helped the Taliban in overpowering warlords and their private militias, eliminating street crimes, rapes, drug trafficking and all other social vices and making the lawless country stable and peaceful. They came on the wrong side of the West due to the restrictions imposed upon the women, their education, dress code and liberal habits. The destruction of Bamiyan statues became another sore point. But it was the cancellation of gas and oil pipelines deal with the UNICAL which broke the camel’s back and the country was put under sanctions by the US in 1997. The Taliban would have continued to rule for a long duration had they not been forcibly toppled by the western forces in Nov 2001.

Talibanization in Pakistan

Like the word ‘Fundamentalism’ coined by the West after the takeover of Iran by an Islamic regime of Imam Khomeini in 1979, the word ‘Talibanization’ was drummed up in the 1990s when a segment of people of FATA and Malakand Division got influenced by the Taliban movement in Afghanistan. Tehrik-Nifaz-Sharia- Muhammadi (TNSM) movement under Sufi Muhammad in Malakand in the early 1990s became so threatening that the Khyber Frontier Corps had to launch an operation in 1994 to subdue them but not before agreeing to their demand of introducing Sharia in that division. Sufi’s son-in-law Fazlullah was the product of TNSM but he later on joined TTP in 2007 and turned Swat into his fiefdom and wreaked havoc.

The initial wave of Talibanization sprouted in FATA in South Waziristan (SW) under Naik Muhammad from the Wazir tribe in 2003, which was in reaction to the deployment of the army in SW. Interestingly, the first batch of regular troops was sent to SW by the then 11 Corps Commander Lt Gen Aurakzai, himself a tribesman. Naik was killed by a US drone in 2004 after he signed a peace deal in a fort in SW with Lt Gen Safdar.

Birth of Tehrik-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP)

The TTP came into being in Dec 2006 under unknown Baitullah Mehsud, hailing from the Mehsud belt in SW, which had its tentacles in all the seven agencies of FATA, and each TTP chapter under a different commander. Hafiz Gul Bahadar of the Othman Wazir tribe was commander in North Waziristan (NW). His one-legged cousin Abdullah Mehsud who had lost his leg in the Afghan Jihad was released from Gitmo after staying there for two and a half years. He too took to militancy but operated outside the zone of Baitullah. He died in a crossfire in Zhob in 2007.  

Taliban-TTP empathy

A tacit understanding was developed between the Afghan Taliban and the TTP, the former confining their battle to Afghanistan and the TTP to Pakistan. Logically, the TTP should have targeted NATO containers and CIA/FBI agents deployed in FATA and American targets to help the Afghan Taliban to achieve their mission. Instead, they targeted Pak security forces, Khasadars, police stations, government officials, schools, jails, and barber and music shops.

Once their sphere of influence spread to urban centres, they targeted ISI setups, GHQ, Naval HQ, Kamra base, Mehran naval base, FIA HQ, and many other sensitive installations apart from the wave of suicide bombings and IEDs.

The TTP came in the bad books of the people once it was recognized that their claim of establishing Islamic Nizam was a farce, and they were on the payroll of foreign agencies and had created lawlessness in the tribal belt at their behest. When Baitullah was killed by the US drone in August 2009, he had left behind more than $ one billion stashed in his in-law’s house. 

The TTP command and communication infrastructure under Hakimullah Mehsud was busted and all its leaders and fighters were pushed out of Pakistan in 2015. To stop infiltration of terrorists, over 90% of fencing of the western border has been completed and border management vastly improved.

Although the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban are of the same stock and creed, in practice there is a vast difference. While the former is not purchasable, the leaders and the led both lead a Spartan life strictly by Islamic injunctions, and have been fighting for a just cause to free their land from the illegal occupiers and to get rid of the collaborators, the latter is devoid of scruples and they fought for dollars and are playing into the hands of adversaries of Pakistan.

Views of moderates in Pakistan

With high prospects of the Afghan Taliban returning to power, fears are being expressed in certain quarters about the possibility of re-emergence of the phenomenon of Talibanization in the Pashtun belts of KP and Baluchistan.

The moderates in Pakistan brand the two entities as two sides of the same coin and strongly feel that both have been operating in unison with common goals. Their suspicion has increased since the Taliban who are now in control of 85% of Afghanistan’s territory including most of the crossing/transit points with neighbours, so far they have not taken any step to rein in the TTP and their affiliates, all residing in Taliban dominated districts/provinces.

However, the good news is that the Taliban have given an assurance to Pakistan that the TTP will not be allowed to carry out cross border terrorism. I have a hunch that, like the call given to the estranged Baloch leaders, a similar call could be given to the TTP leaders once the Taliban hold the reins of power in Kabul.

Irrespective of the assurances, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Qureshi stated on July 10th that, “We do not want Talibanization of our country”. The Islamists and conservatives have interpreted his statement that what he implied was that we do not want Islamization of Pakistan, and would like it to remain a secular country with Islam in name only. Sherry Rehman and NSA Moeed Yusaf attending the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs nodded in agreement and were all smiles.

New Taliban more seasoned than old Taliban

Learning from their last offensive drive from 1994 to 1996 in which they moved upwards from Kandahar in southern Afghanistan towards other parts of the country, it had enabled the NA to fall back to Northern Afghanistan and hold on to Panjsher Valley which couldn’t be captured by the Taliban. This time they changed their strategy and focused more on northern parts and today are in control of greater numbers of its districts including Sher Khan Killi, a transit point to Tajikistan.  

With 85% territory in their control and 28 out of 34 provinces in their bag, five out of six transit points including Islam Qila opposite Iran seized and having gained dominance over the major highways, militarily they are in a very strong position and they are smelling victory.

Although they have encircled all the capital cities and major urban centres, they are in no hurry to attack and capture them since it would entail bloodshed. What they seem to be doing is to choke the cities by disallowing food and arms supplies to the defending armed soldiers and force them to voluntarily surrender. This is in line with their announced policy that they will not allow further bloodshed of the Afghans.  

Poor fight back by ANA and Taliban’s affability

The world was taken by surprise when they saw the well-trained and equipped ANA troops surrendering to the Taliban at several places without putting up a fight. The Americans had spent over $ 80 billion to prepare them to be able to fight with the Taliban on their own, but all seem to have gone to waste.

What surprised the world the most was the polite and sanguine behaviour of the victorious Taliban after every victory! They welcomed the surrendering troops, called them their brothers, treated them with respect and not a single case of killing, torture or degradation took place. In fact, they have assured the uniformed personnel that once they return to power they will be re-employed. All the administrative units, schools, hospitals etc. are functioning and none have been closed.

The Taliban have learnt a lot of lessons in the longest war and are playing their cards sensibly and are quite different to what they were during their previous rule of 5 years. The sagacity and maturity of the Taliban can be gauged from the way they kept the prongs of military, political and diplomacy in step with each other. They are in touch with all the regional countries and have assured them that the minorities’ rights will be protected. They already had prolonged negotiations with the US which resulted in the Doha agreement. They may like to maintain diplomatic relations with India, but a clear message has been given to India that clandestine operations in Pakistan will not be accepted. Another good news is that dejected India has closed six of the seven consulates in Afghanistan that were wholly involved in covert operations against Pakistan.

With their humane and sanguine outlook, the Taliban are winning the hearts and minds of the people across the country and are treating all sections of the society regardless of ethnic and sectarian divisions with respect. The neighbours of Afghanistan are also dealing with the Taliban wisely and are extending their support instead of exerting pressure.

Last-ditch effort

To bolster the sagging spirits of the ANSF and the urbanites, warlords Like Ismail Khan, a Tajik once known as the lion of Herat, are flexing their muscles and egged on by the spoilers, they are collecting their militias to recover the lost districts in conjunction with the ANA. Some processions of non-Pashtuns chanting anti-Taliban slogans were taken out. Segments of women in some cities also paraded on the streets carrying guns and shouting slogans against the Taliban. These efforts are too late in point of time and would fizzle out in the face of high momentum gained by the Taliban.  

While the spoilers are circulating their gloomy narratives painting the Taliban as barbarians and depicting the onset of civil war, India after flying out all its RAW operatives from Bagram airbase in military planes in panic, used these planes for dropping huge quantities of arms and ammunition in Kandahar where fighting is going on and Indian consulate has been closed. This shoddy effort must have displeased the Taliban and would be the last consignment from India.     

Ground realities

Americans will not return to Afghanistan, and sooner than later they will ditch the regime they had installed in Kabul. The days of the tumbling Kabul regime are numbered and in anticipation of what is likely to happen, the family of Ashraf Ghani and friends have flown to Dubai with bags and baggage. The future of the Afghan ANA is dark since it has little stomach to fight. Military morale will be key to the survival of the Ghani regime. It is pinning all hopes on Pakistan to convince the Taliban to share power. The spirits of the Taliban are upbeat, momentum is clearly on their side and they are pressing their advantage. Afghans living in major cities are suffering from fear psychosis and are keen to leave the country. The Taliban are no more isolated and they have a long list of well-wishers. Their return to power is a foregone conclusion and so is the re-establishment of the Islamic Emirate, with some modifications in consultation with the people. Islamic system and not the Republic will restore peace and order in the war-ravaged country. Attempts to capture cities might start after the exit of the last batch of foreign troops by August 31. It is to be seen whether Turkey or China sends the peacekeeping force and takes control over the Kabul airport. China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran will fill the power vacuum left by the USA.

Pakistan’s vacillating responses

Pakistan’s concerted efforts to make Afghanistan peaceful was praiseworthy and was acknowledged by the USA. However, when the pendulum swung in the favor of the Taliban, its responses became wayward. We are now saying that we have no favourites, but are more receptive to the unpopular Kabul regime which is reviled by the great majority of Afghans and is anti-Pakistan. We are singing the tunes of the defeated USA and the spoilers which are advocating a broad-based government inclusive of the Ghani-Abdullah regime and run on 2004 US-made constitution. We are in favour of the Republic over an Islamic Emirate. In the same breath, we say, the solution will have to be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned and none else and it is the people of Afghanistan who will decide which form of government they would like.

In this regard, the Taliban who are standing near the victory stand and the trophy is within their grasping reach, is promising that the future system of government will be by the wishes of the people. And yet we are trying to look saner and shrewder than the Taliban and are tutoring them as to what will be good and bad for their country for which they have given immense sacrifices.

 

 

 

 

 

Image Courtesy-Al Jazeera

 

 

 

 

 

Shah Mahmud Qureshi is expressing apprehensions over the possibility of the breakout of civil war in Afghanistan, while Moeed Yusaf lamented that Pakistan had no control over the worsening situation in Afghanistan. Fears of civil war, refugee influx, more instability and bloodshed are the narratives of the spoilers of peace that need to be discouraged rather than encouraged.

While the US utterly failed to make Afghanistan peaceful and stable, prospects of the Taliban achieving yet another milestone are brighter.

The idea of a broad-based government

If the idea of broad-based government was so good, why was it not implemented before signing the Geneva Accord as sought by Gen Ziaul Haq in 1988? Why the mighty USA couldn’t do so in its 20 years stay? Why are we so fearful of the Islamic system and that too in a neighbouring country where it was successfully implemented for five years and during that time Pakistan enjoyed the best of relations and its western border was the safest?

Need for introspection

Are our parliamentary system and Anglo Saxon laws in vogue perfect and most suited to the psyche of our people? Is it not a fact that the great majority in Pakistan strive for an Islamic system since so-called democracy has given nothing to the common people, but it has never been tried even for experimental sake? If so, how come and on what moral grounds we are giving our suggestions to the Taliban about the form of government when the US couldn’t convince them? When we admit that we have very little influence over the Taliban, then why are we meddling in their affairs by issuing imprudent and unproductive statements off and on merely to show our importance?

Have we ever objected to China, Saudi Arabia and Iran for their failings in democracy and level of tolerance? Could our leaders dare tell the USA that its policies are highly unjust and discriminatory and that it failed to honour the Doha agreement, or to remind the US that it is responsible for making the world unsafe? I am sure we are cautioning the Taliban merely to please the US. Why can’t our leaders come out of the magic spell of the untrustworthy double-dealing USA which will again betray and harm Pakistan to lessen its grief over the loss of Afghanistan? We shouldn’t rule out the possibility of the USA recognizing the future Taliban government quickly. Zalmay Khalilzad has once again been dispatched to liaise with the Taliban. The marooned Ghani might agree to climb down the high horse and give up his wish to stay as president till the next elections.

Way forward

Isn’t it time for our policymakers to sit with the Chinese, Russian and Iranian leaders and chalk out a comprehensive plan on how to keep the spoilers at bay and how to help the Taliban in overcoming the last hurdles smoothly, and how to go about developing war-torn Afghanistan? The early takeover of power by the Taliban will disperse the darkened clouds of uncertainty, will stop the rumour mills churning out false stories and narratives, and will put to rest the conspiracies of the spoilers. CPEC is the key to removing the regional socio-economic deprivations and bringing stability.

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Change in Direction of Wind-India-Pakistan antagonism by Brig(Retd) Asif Haroon Raja

یہودی

Change in Direction of Wind

 

India-Pakistan antagonism

 

Asif Haroon Raja

The notorious Narendra Modi nurtured by the RSS had earned infamy due to his disgraceful role in the demolition of Babri mosque in Ayodhya in 1992 and the massacre of 2000 Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 when he was the State Governor. The US and the West declared him a terrorist and denied him a visa.  However, when he took over the rule of India in June 2014, all his sins were pardoned. Soon after, he started flexing muscles against Pakistan. On a flimsy pretext as to why Pakistan’s High Commissioner in New Delhi had hosted a dinner for the visiting Kashmiri leadership in August 2014, which had been a norm, he adopted a belligerent posture. After giving marching order to Pakistan’s envoy, he directed the Indian Army deployed in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) to heat the Line of Control (LoC) and the Working Boundary (WB) in Kashmir in contravention to the 2003 ceasefire agreement.

From September 2014 onwards, the intensity of firing across the LoC and WB was gradually increased under a calculated plan. The martyrdom of Kashmiri freedom fighter Wani in IOK in July 2015 revitalized the freedom struggle, which gave an excuse to Modi’s BJP regime to step up atrocities against the Kashmiris. All previous records of state terrorism and human rights violations were broken. Pellet guns were used for the first time to blind the children and the unarmed youth taking part in protest marches peacefully.

To force Pakistan not to extend diplomatic, political and moral support to the Kashmiris, a propaganda war was geared up to paint Pakistan as an abettor of terrorism in India and Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). To further maximize pressure, a covert war that had been initiated from Afghan soil in 2003, was accelerated and water terrorism was up-surged as an additional tool to cow down Pakistan. False flag operations, the threat of surgical strikes, induction of sophisticated war munitions, and heavy buildup of conventional forces and nuclear strength were other pressurizing tactics.  

Internally, BJP became the torchbearer of Hindutva. It started destroying democratic institutions and secular values pursued by the Congress, fomented fascism and became intolerant towards other religious minorities in India. Religious and press freedom and independence of the judiciary were undermined. Modi declared his intentions to revoke the special status of IOK. To change the demography of IOK, he started constructing new colonies for the retired army personnel and Hindu Pundits. However, he couldn’t make constitutional changes to make IOK an integral part of India since he didn’t have the requisite majority in the Lok Sabha.

To gain a two-thirds majority in the May 2019 elections, Modi in consultation with his patrons executed a false flag operation in Pulwama on February 14, 2019. In the engineered suicide attack, 44 Indian soldiers died and the blame was promptly put on Pakistan. Indian media created war hysteria and the event was made a pretext to launch an air attack in Balakot on February 22. The incursion backfired, but Pakistan took revenge by giving a befitting response on Feb 26-27 which humiliated the Indian air force and raised the stature of PAF sky-high. Irrespective of the huge setback, Modi succeeded in garnering Hindu votes and sweeping the elections.

After returning to power with a heavy majority, Modi’s first major action was to rescind the special status of IOK by annulling Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution on Aug 05, 2019, and bisecting IOK into two Indian Union Territories. Soon after, 8 million Muslim Kashmiris residing in the illegally annexed region were locked up in their houses, curfew was imposed, and they were subjected to the worst atrocities. Youth were slaughtered or put in torture cells and the women raped. This gory practice is still going on with a vengeance to break their will to resist. The hawkish senior civil and military Indian leaders didn’t stop there. Drunk with power, they threatened to annex GB and AJK and break Pakistan into four parts. Hardly a day passed without unprovoked firings by Indian forces across the LoC and WB in violation of the 2003 ceasefire agreement, killing and injuring civilians living in the close vicinity as well as soldiers. Even villages were not spared.                      

From 2009 onwards, after India blamed Pakistan for the Mumbai attacks and impulsively suspended composite dialogue, Pakistan has been bending over backwards to renew talks with India, but India showed no interest and not only kept notching up its bellicosity but also made terrorism a precondition to restart talks. Pakistan never picked up the courage to state the fact that India is the biggest terrorist state in the region and has created issues with all the neighbouring states in South Asia.

Modi was urged repeatedly to stop the madness but he turned down all peaceful gestures and pursued the path of hostility relentlessly. The constant low-intensity conflict along the LoC together with the absorption of IOK by India upped the temperature to a boiling point and it was feared that open war was round the corner.

 

 

The foreign paid proxies that had been flushed out from FATA and Baluchistan in 2015 were once again regrouped and rejuvenated by RAW and proxy war was stepped up in the two conflict zones.

Apart from Pakistan’s nuclear program, which is an eyesore for India, the USA and Israel, CPEC has become another irritant for the trio. The three strategic partners are determined to disable the nuclear program and to scuttle CPEC at all cost. 

Under the obtaining highly tense geo-political environment hope for peace between India and Pakistan soon was slim. People were keeping their fingers crossed as to when India will further up the ante.

The sudden news of hotline talks between the Army DGMOs of the two countries last month resulting in a ceasefire along the LoC and WB wef 25 February came as a big surprise. It was difficult to believe the national security adviser to the PM Moeed Yusaf who stated that no backdoor channel took place. Since then the volatile LoC and WB are peaceful.

The next development was the offer of peace to India by Gen Bajwa during the security conference in Islamabad this month. It was followed by a letter from virulent Modi to Imran Khan wishing him and the people of Pakistan good wishes on the occasion of Pakistan Day on March 23. A meeting on Indus Water Treaty was also held in Delhi in a friendly environment. Indian troops are expected to take part in joint drills of SCO countries organized by Pakistan. It is speculated that the SAARC Summit which is held in suspended animation since 2016 due to Indian obduracy is likely to be renewed and the next summit will be held in Islamabad and Modi may attend. If so, it will change the whole dynamic.

Let us make an appraisal as to how come this sudden change of heart took place and that too secretly and mysteriously. In my view, another round of hypocrisy is ready to take off and soon our media would spread the news about the success of backdoor diplomacy and the role of our friends in melting the ice of antagonism. Media channels will splash breaking news that a great breakthrough has been achieved and things would soon get back to normal between the two arch-rivals. The government and its allies would claim it as their diplomatic triumph while their fans would get engulfed in ecstasy.

This kind of euphoria is an old phenomenon. Whenever India finds itself in trouble, or it has a sinister plan up its sleeve, it offers a hand of friendship and our leaders readily and excitedly clutch the offered hand saying let bygones be bygone and let us give peace a chance in the overall interest of the two countries in particular and South Asia in general.

In this regard, I would like my friends to recall the peace treaty signed with India on January 4, 2004, and the period till Nov 26, 2008, when we were in a state of euphoria, flying kites that all our core issues of Kashmir, Siachin, Sir Creek and water would be resolved through a composite dialogue. LoC was silenced. But India had a different plan.

Under the guise of peace and friendship, it fenced the whole length of the LoC and Pakistan helped India in subduing the freedom movement in IOK. Getting rid of the threat of Kashmir which had become a bleeding wound for India, RAW launched the biggest ever covert operations from Afghanistan to bleed and destabilise Pakistan and make it a failed state.

From the eastern front India launched a cultural invasion in Pakistan with a focus on the smaller provinces and the younger generation, to popularise India as the most powerful state in the region, glorify Indian armed forces, promote Indian secularism and liberalism through movies, songs, dance, music, fun and frolic, spread obscenity, demonise Islam and Islamists, make settled issues controversial, create divisions, inject doubts and misgivings against the state premier institutions, and remove the sting of jihad. RAW made inroads with the help of people-to-people contacts and confidence-building measures.

Much of it was achieved with the help of Pakistan media, NGOs and liberals and organisations like Aman ki Asha and SAFMA. To maximize pressure on Pakistan, India started building dams on our three rivers as it resorts to water terrorism.

While pretending to be friends, India put all the acts of terror in India and IOK in the basket of Pakistan. This facade of friendship was torn apart by India after it conducted a false flag operation in Mumbai in Nov 2008, suspended composite dialogue abruptly and from that time onwards adopted an extremely aggressive posture which was taken to new heights by Modi from Sept 2014 onwards. He never minced his words while stating his sinister objectives against Pakistan. On several occasions, he and his hardcore lieutenants have been threatening to deprive Pakistan of a single drop of water and to fragment Pakistan. A product of RSS, he nurtures pathological hatred for Muslims and Pakistan.

Historically, our leaders, both civil and military, starting from the great Quaid-e-Azam have been extending a hand of friendship to India and urging it to live as peaceful neighbours, but India not reconciling to the existence of Pakistan rejected the gestures. The main bone of contention was and still is the unresolved Kashmir dispute, which India will never resolve following the wishes of the Kashmiris and the UN resolutions. Talks were a mere gimmick to buy time and absorb IOK into Indian Union, which it did on 5 Aug 2019.

India never let go of any opportunity that came its way to harm Pakistan. Conversely, Pakistan never availed of the opportunities, or whenever it did, the plans were executed poorly. Our successive regimes have remained under the illusion that their defensive policy clothed in one-sided appeasement would make Pakistan safe. India has inflicted tens of thousands of cuts on the body of Pakistan since 2003 and has cleverly portrayed itself as a victim and Pakistan as an abettor of terrorism. India succeeded in selling its false narrative to the world since Pakistan made no effort to build a counter-narrative to put the record straight. All its acts were reactive and apologetic.

Today India is up against the most difficult times both on external and internal fronts. Never before India faced a potent twin threat from China and Pakistan, and never before Indian society was so deeply divided. Never before Pakistan spoke so boldly against India to expose its wrongdoings. India’s ugly face has been exposed to the world for the first time after the arrest of Kulbushan followed by leakage of misdoings of Srivastava Group and Goswami WhatsApp chats. Never before, it was so sharply criticised by world bodies including the EU over its massive human rights abuses against Indian minorities and Kashmiris. Visas have been denied by Canada to its senior military and civil officers involved in human rights abuses. Snakes in the grass in Pakistan milked by India are being systematically crushed.

Pakistan has got out of isolation mainly due to CPEC, which has become a magnet to pull all the landlocked Central Asian States, South Asian States less India and Bhutan, West Asia. Middle East, Africa and Russia. If the Taliban take over, Afghanistan will also join CPEC. Iran is inclined to make Chahbahar complement Gwadar. Pakistan’s macroeconomics have begun to show improvement and the value of the rupee has improved.

The US is in no position to extract any concession from the Taliban or to pull out safely without the cooperation of Pakistan. Pakistan armed forces have emerged as the strongest and most battles hardened force of the world and have earned kudos from the world. These are happy tidings for Pakistan and the only thing it has to do is to put its house in order which is presently in disorder due to the Govt-PDM clash, rising inflation and price hike. There is a need for a national dialogue to cool down the political temperature.

Modi’s fascist and racist policies have backfired and have made all the Indian minorities including the Dalits hostile and they have become defiant. Kissan Tehrik, Khalistan and Naxalite movements, and the freedom struggle in J&K have become existential threats to the security of India. Never before India suffered such humiliations at the hands of the PAF and China’s PLA and it couldn’t do anything to wash out its embarrassment. Much to Modi’s chagrin, its chief patrons USA and Israel didn’t come to his rescue.

India’s huge investments in Afghanistan and covert war against Pakistan seem to have gone down the drain. CPEC which has the potential to make Pakistan self-reliant couldn’t be scuttled and India’s plans to annex GB have been disrupted by China. Hopes of Indo-US-Israel nexus to convert Ladakh into the biggest military station have dashed. Not only Afghanistan but Iran has also slipped out of the hands of India.

While India’s chief patron USA is a descending power engulfed in multiple crises, its chief rival China is the ascending power and the future superpower which has become a strategic partner of Pakistan with common security interests. The story of the USA as the giant and China as a minnow has become redundant and today both are equal competitors.

Shining India’s rising economy has plummeted due to Covid 19 and its GDP has dipped into negative. For all practical purposes, democratic norms and secular values over which India used to gloat have been overtaken by fascism and racism. Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and NRC Bill have alienated the minorities of India particularly the Indian Muslims who are worst affected. Delhi riots in February 2020 followed by a mass movement of the Muslim women in Delhi against the CAA gave a glimpse of the deep-seated hatred of the largest minority against the Hindutva lovers.

About two million Indian security forces are engaged in counter-insurgency operations all over India and IOK for the last so many decades and not a single insurgency or separatist movement could be quashed. The Indian Army particularly the lower ranks are in a state of demoralization due to social discrimination, maltreatment by seniors and misusing them extensively to kill their own citizens. Modi has lost his popularity, his smiles, his stupid hugs, and in frustration is growing a long beard.

India had got a chance of the century in 1971 as quipped by Subramanian and it cut Pakistan to size. Today Pakistan has got a chance of the century to avenge its humiliation and settle the long-standing Kashmir issue. Today, China is also an equal stakeholder in J&K and collusion with Pakistan and freedom fighters in IOK, is well poised to dictate terms to India.

Instead of making productive use of this great opportunity, we are once again inclined to return to the futile talks and to normalise relations with the most cunning and treacherous India which follows the philosophy of taking only and not giving an inch. It has a big role in keeping Pakistan politically unstable and economically weak. Under no circumstances it can see Pakistan prospering.

The sudden change of direction of the wind has not happened on its own. Modi dared to annex the disputed Indian Occupied Kashmir without the tacit approval of USA and Israel and then stuck to it adamantly. India accepted China’s intrusions across the LAC and sued for peace since it is in no position to strike back and forcibly retrieve its lost territory. After the 1962 debacle, the Indian military has once again acted timidly against China’s aggression.

India would not have ceased firing along the LoC last February if its house was in order and it was not faced with twin threats. Modi would not have written a letter of felicitation and desired cordial relations with Pakistan without a nudge from Joe Biden. Pakistan would also not have accepted India’s offer of a ceasefire and talked of peace on its own. The USA is the only country that can dictate terms to India as well as Pakistan.

Both the US and India are sailing in choppy waters. Biden would not affect any changes in the overall global policies but would execute them in his own ways and for that, he needs a breather. The moment the US and India sail past the rough patch, they will recommence their old monkey tricks.

Pakistan cannot afford to sing the peace mantra and hope for reopening fruitless talks with India without first providing relief to the 8 million Kashmiris going through hell. Without India restoring the special status and stopping the reign of terror perpetrated upon the Kashmiris, and closing its terror infrastructure in Afghanistan, Pakistan should not agree to reopen talks.

In concert with China, Pakistan is in a position to put pressure on India to agree to these preliminaries before restoring diplomatic ties and then embarking upon wholesome dialogue for the settlement of the Kashmir dispute. Pakistan must play its cards shrewdly and intelligently and must not get duped once again. Time is on Pakistan’s side.

The writer has retired Brig Gen, war veteran, defence & security analyst, international columnist, author of five books, his 6th book under publication, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre. asifharoonraja@gmail.com




        

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Obtaining situation in Afghanistan Asif Haroon Raja

Obtaining situation in Afghanistan

Asif Haroon Raja

The US-NATO-ANSF military operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan have been going on since October 7, 2001 relentlessly and have now reached a stalemate. For all practical purposes, the US had lost the war after it pulled out bulk of 150,000 ISAF troops in December 2014 and allowed its chief foe Taliban to gain initiative and an upper edge in the battlefield. The US is however refusing to accept its defeat and is prolonging its stay.

After abandoning boots on ground strategy and relying on airpower and weak Afghan National Army, the occupation forces are locked up in 8 military bases with limited freedom of action. The 3,52000 strong ANSF have suffered extremely heavy casualties since 2016. On average, their casualty rate has been 5000 per year.

 

The occupiers are in a quandary since they can neither convert their defeat into victory, nor can contain the Taliban offensive, or can pressurize them to ceasefire and sign the peace deal on their terms. They are caught in a quagmire of their own making in which they can neither stay for long, nor can they curtail casualties, or can pullout and exit safely and honorably. They are surviving on the logistic routes provided by Pakistan and are also dependent upon Pakistan for their departure.

 

The songs of human rights, women rights, fruits of democracy have all evaporated in thin air. And so has the bloated arrogance over its invincibility after the US agreed that political solution was the only viable option to restore peace and for that purpose sat across the table to hold talks with so-called terrorists and beseech them to ceasefire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Taliban having gained initiative and a decisive military edge over the occupiers and collaborators in 2015, are constantly attacking high value targets all over the country and are constantly gaining space. No respite was given during the nine rounds of peace talks. In the last session at Doha, all friction points had been settled and Trump had extended an invitation to the Taliban leadership to sign the peace agreement at Camp David.

The peace process was however, halted after Trump abruptly canceled the meeting scheduled on 11 September, 2019 on a flimsy excuse of death of one US sergeant. The spoilers once again succeeded in derailing peace and letting the orgy of bloodshed to continue. Disruption of peace process didn’t bring any change in aggressiveness of the Taliban and they continued to strike targets and draw blood. Major victims of the firefight between the two rivals are the ordinary civilians whose death rate has increased significantly.

Presidential election was held on 28 September despite disturbed security situation but the results have so far not been announced due to widespread irregularities. Political uncertainty favor the Taliban and disfavors Ashraf Ghani.

In October, Zalmay Khalilzad was once again sent to renew talks and his efforts helped in swap over of prisoners and to lower tensions. In November, one American and one Australian in captivity of Taliban were freed in exchange of three Taliban prisoners including Anas Haqqani detained in Bagram jail. However, the month of November proved costly for Americans; 19 US soldiers died in combat. Trump made an unannounced visit to Bagram airbase on 28 Nov. While addressing the troops he reaffirmed his desire to reduce the US troops by 5-8000. He announced that talks with the Taliban were being resumed.     

Suicide attack on Bagram airbase on 11 Dec was the biggest attack in the 18-year war causing heavy casualties in men and material. It jolted the US administration as well as Pentagon and impelled them to resume peace talks in real earnest. The 10th round has commenced at Doha but ceasefire and direct talks with Kabul remain the sticking in points.

It is yet not clear whether a breakthrough will be achieved. While the Taliban have so far not hinted at agreeing to ceasefire as claimed by Trump, the spoilers are still active to scuttle peace process.  

In case peace deal is signed and the war torn Afghanistan become peaceful, the biggest losers would be India, puppet regime in Kabul, Israel, Pentagon, US security contractors, drug mafia and Afghan warlords, all of them nurturing mercantile interests. India wants to retain its perverse influence in Kabul so as to draw maximum economic benefits from next door Central Asian States, and to pose twin threat to the security of Pakistan. Regime in Kabul knows that without the crutches of USA, it will fall instantly. Pentagon wants arms industry of military industrial complex to garner maximum profits. Others have their own commercial interests. The US also realizes that control over Eurasia would ensure its world domination.   

These vested entities had egged on George Bush and Obama to remain focused on use of force. They had prevented Obama from making a clean break in December 2014 and compelled him to leave behind Resolute Support Group. Same pressure groups pressurized Trump to increase force level and to drop more bombs in 2018 than ever before. Now they are not letting him to withdraw 15000 US troops and want the war to drag on. He is being scared that complete withdrawal would be catastrophic for the US geo-strategic and geo-economics interests in the region.

They are least concerned that Afghan war has become the longest, bloodiest and deadliest in the US history which has surpassed the toll of the two Great Wars. It has cost $ 2 trillion and 2500 fatalities to USA apart from tens of thousands of injuries caused to the US soldiers and the social trauma suffered by the families of the victims.

The US is mindful of the growing influence of Russia, China and Iran in Afghanistan and their closeness with the Taliban, which is detrimental to its geo-strategic and geo-economic ambitions in this region. China’s BRI project has unnerved the sole super power since it has the potential to make China the leading economic power of the world by 2025. That is why, the US has accelerated trade war with China.

The US had occupied Afghanistan with a view to make it a permanent military garrison and by virtue of its strategic location, be able to meddle into the affairs of China, Russia, Iran, denuclearize Pakistan, oversee Middle East and above all gain monopoly over the resource rich Eurasian belt stretching from Central Asia to the Caspian Sea. It also had eyes on opium and minerals like lithium in Afghanistan.

What is most upsetting for USA is that in spite of spending colossal amount and using excessive force, it has not been able to accomplish single objective. Conversely, it has lost its prestige and élan and today it finds itself in lose-lose situation. It has come to this sorry pass because of its insincerity of purpose, evil designs, and wrong selection of allies that have been pursuing their own selfish agenda.

Another reason is weak and visionless military commanders, overestimating theirs and underestimating the capabilities of foes, painting rosy picture and imagining that they are winning the war. Devoid of fundamental understanding of Afghanistan, they didn’t have foggiest idea as to why they were fighting the purposeless longest war and how to keep their under commands motivated. They didn’t learn any lesson from history that Afghanistan has been the traditional graveyard of super powers where it was easy for the victors to barge in but near impossible to extricate safely. The ghost of Vietnam is now stalking and haunting the very being of Americans operating in Afghanistan.

Even after reaching the edge of precipice, the US leaders are still hoping against hope that they will snatch victory out of the jaws of sure defeat. Gen Nicholson stated in November 2017 that the ANSF would expand control over 80% of Afghan territory in next two years. It was a shot in the dark and devoid of emerging ground realities. Contrary to the claims made by senior US officials that progress was being made in Afghanistan, the fact is that the Taliban have control over 56% of the territory and the rest is contested. The government writ is confined to capital cities only, which are also frequently targeted by the Taliban.

The Washington Post of December 9 has spilled the beans. Quoting official documents, it stated that war is unwinnable, and that the American people have constantly been lied to. The Pentagon papers reveal the impressions of US officials that after toppling Taliban regime, killing Osama bin Laden and dismantling Al-Qaeda with the help of Pakistan, the US had no business to stay on and undermine its reputation. All reports initiated from Kabul to Washington presented “All OK”, whereas on ground nothing was OK.  

Failing to defeat the Taliban in the battleground, the US has been trying to weaken the Taliban by dividing them but failed. Having failed on all fronts, the US instead of taking corrective measures, found Pakistan a convenient scapegoat and held it responsible for all its failures. To hide its embarrassment, it derives some satisfaction by whipping Pakistan. The US is now exerting pressure on Islamabad to force the Taliban to ceasefire, hold direct talks with the regime in Kabul, share power with them, and allow the US to retain few military bases. Or else fight and defeat them.

Pakistan has suffered the most in fighting the US imposed war on terror and servilely abiding to its dictates. It has also produced best results against terrorism, but instead of being rewarded, it is accused, insulted and punished for uncommitted sins. India and Afghanistan have been in the forefront to conduct proxy war as well as propaganda war against Pakistan. On account of policy of appeasement pursued by Pakistan, the trio has been successful in selling its narrative to the world that Pakistan is a terror abetting state and a nursery of terrorism. From the time of Gen Musharraf, Pakistan has been receiving invectives and lashes without a whimper thereby encouraging the real offenders to indulge in one-sided defamation campaign unobtrusively.

The US which is the strategic partner of India and the ruling regime in Kabul has thoroughly misused Pakistan to serve its self-seeking interests. Pakistan was taken on board as a tactical partner for the achievement of short-term objectives but was always regarded as a target. Pakistan has been subjected to series of conspiracies, covert and overt operations for over 16 years relentlessly. In collusion with India, Afghanistan, Israel and the West, the US has now stepped up the hybrid war using all possible kinetic and non-kinetic resources to make Pakistan a compliant state. Billions are being spent on proxies, media, NGOs.  

Pakistan’s economy which is reeling under the weight of mountain of debt is being targeted through IMF and FATF in addition to fomenting bedlam. India’s aggressive posturing since February 24th, followed by the August 5 action in Indian Occupied Kashmir, are being reinforced with series of internal disturbances such as PTM movement, Azadi March led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, controversial decision given by the Chief Justice regarding extension of the Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa, students agitations demanding restoration of student unions, and now the lawyers-doctors clash at Lahore. These disturbances are designed to deflect the attention of the world from the sin committed by Modi regime in Kashmir and to destabilize the PTI govt.

Modi’s misadventure in occupied Kashmir is proving costly. The spirits of the Kashmiris locked up since 5 August, denied of basic human rights and subjected to worst torture have not dampened. As predicted, the violent clashes in the northeastern states particularly in Assam in reaction to the recently passed controversial citizenship law, and protests in other parts of India in reaction to Modi regime’s fascism against minorities and craze for Hindutva might prove fatal for the unity of India. Likewise, if Trump further delays the departure of US troops from the inferno of Afghanistan, the end result could be catastrophic.    

The writer is retired Brig Gen, war veteran, defence & security analyst, columnist, author of five books, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac research Centre, member think tank PESS. asifharoonraja@gmail.com                           

 

 

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Indian air intrusion night 25/26 February 2019

Indian air intrusion night 25/26 February 2019

Background Information. The intelligence agencies of India USA, Israel and the puppet government in Kabul (RAW, CIA, NDS) duly supported by MI-6, Mossad and BND based in Kabul have been targeting Pakistan from Afghanistan as well as Iran from 2003 onward to destabilize, denuclearize, de-Islamize and Balkanize Pakistan. The collaborating agencies have been making use of paid proxies and hybrid war to achieve their objectives. Pakistan security forces after fighting the war on terror for 15 years finally succeeded in chucking out all terrorist groups and restoring peace. Today Pakistan is in a much stronger position to deal with internal and external challenges which have dismayed India and its strategic partners.

Pre-Pulwama Attack Situation

India is highly perturbed over the fast-changing regional scenario which is going in favour of Pakistan and is against the interest of India. Despite India’s best efforts to scuttle CPEC, it is making good progress. Game-changing CPEC has disrupted India’s plan to isolate Pakistan. The US-Taliban peace talks in which India has no role, while Pakistan is playing a key role has upset India. The US plans to strike a peace deal with the Taliban and arrive at a political settlement. The US-NATO troops intend to exit from Afghanistan, which will pave the way for the Taliban to regain power. That would mean decrease if not the termination of Indian influence and increase of Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan.

The gulf between Pakistan and the Arab Gulf States in the aftermath of the Yemen crisis in 2015 had been quickly filled up by India by getting close to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and UAE. The void has now been filled and bitterness removed after the change of government in Islamabad and quiet diplomacy of Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. Much to the disappointment of India, old camaraderie between Pakistan and KSA-UAE has been restored. KSA, UAE and Qatar have extended generous financial support and oil on deferred payment to help the new government led by Imran Khan to tide over its economic crisis.

China is continuing to consolidate its strategic relationship with Pakistan and to bolster CPEC. The USA found itself stuck in Afghanistan and wanting to exit safely and honourably is waving an olive oil to Pakistan and extending an offer of a free trade agreement. Amidst the happy tidings for Pakistan, planned high profile visit of Crown Prince M. Bin Salman to Pakistan and then to India and the expected Saudi investment of $20 billion together with setting up of an oil refinery at Gwadar seaport to further boost up CPEC alarmed India. Visit of Afghan Taliban to Islamabad on 17th, hearing of Kalbushan case in ICJ on 18th, crucial meeting of FATF on 18th  for which India was lobbying to put Pakistan in the blacklist, and PSL matches taking place in Karachi-Lahore were other important events in that timeframe.  

Internally, Narendra Modi is facing heavy criticism from the public since he has been unable to fulfil the tall promises he made to the people of India. Instead of uplifting the GDP above 11% as boasted by him, the GDP has dropped below 7% and devaluation of bigger currency notes and taxation have affected the small businessmen and farmers. His extremist policies against the minorities in India and craze to promote Hindutva have declined his popularity and minimized his chances to get re-elected. In Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), Kashmiris have got alienated and Kashmir is fast slipping out of the hands of India owing to oppressive policies of BJP government.

Moreover, the atrocities of Indian security forces are now being noticed with concern by the international community, the UN and even the saner elements in India. Modi is feeling frustrated that he has failed to overawe Pakistan through his aggressive tactics, keeping the Line of Control hot by carrying out repeated violations (300 in 2016, over 1900 violations in 2017 and that many in 2018), resorting to water terrorism and hurling threats to break Pakistan into four pieces. Much to his distress, the electoral loss of BJP in five states has panicked him.

 

 

 

It was in the backdrop of series of upsetting developments for Modi when seen in context with approaching elections in India in May 2019 that it was apprehended that he might resort to some sort of misadventure with a view to infuse fresh life into his election campaign, distract the attention of the world from IOK, find an excuse to further step up ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Muslims, change the demography of Kashmir Valley, drum up old narrative that Pakistan is abetting terrorism in Kashmir and isolate Pakistan diplomatically. It became all the more crucial because of the planned visit of Crown Prince on 16-17 February.

Pulwama Attack

On 14 February, a suicide bomber rammed his car filled with explosive into the military convoy in Pulwama (part of Jammu in IOK) killing 40 Indian CRPF soldiers. Within minutes of the occurrence, India blamed Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) and Pakistan without even carrying out preliminary investigations.

Possibilities Open

  1. False flag operation by India.
  2. Indigenous suicide attack by Mujahideen.
  3. Pakistan sponsored attack.

False Flag Operation. India has mastered the art of false flag operations and has been using it frequently to project itself as the victim of terrorism (attack on Indian Parliament in 2001, Mumbai attacks in 2008, Pathankot and Uri attacks in 2016). Indian leaders utter lies without any qualm and have been consistently cooking up fake stories to malign Pakistan. Need for engineering an attack was felt by the BJP to garner the votes of Hindu Far Right, to dampen the visit of Crown Prince in Pakistan and to colour his perceptions. Most probably.   

Indigenous Attack. The way the Kashmiris are being oppressed, killed, maimed, tortured, raped and humiliated since 1989 by Indian forces and are being denied the right of self-determination gives them a strong cause to resort to the extreme measure of suicide attacks. Even the children and girls throw stones at the Indian soldiers and do not fear them. Adil was among the many who were detained, tortured and made to rub nose on the floor. This option is probable but doesn’t suit India.

Pakistan Sponsored Attack. Pakistan draws no benefit and stands to lose on all accounts particularly when its national policy and strategy is defensive, and has shown extraordinary restraint in the face of Indian indiscriminate firing along the LoC causing deaths and injuries to a large number of civilians. Pakistan has paid a heavy price in controlling terrorism, it is making concerted efforts to get itself out of the FATF grey list and its main focus is on improving the economy. Hence this option is unviable and ruled out but suits India the most.

Orchestrated War Hysteria

From February 14 onward, Indian media stimulated a calculated hysteria duly augmented by BJP hawks. Drums of war were drummed and slogan of ‘teach Pakistan a lesson’ was loudly chanted. Options of how best to avenge the attack in Pulwama were openly discussed on Indian media channels. Kashmiris were hunted all over in Jammu and Indian cities, killed, thrashed and girls kidnapped. The state machinery backed up the goons belonging to RSS, BJP, Shiv Sena and other extremist Hindu groups. Additional 12000 troops were inducted into the already saturated Kashmir Valley to further tyrannize the Kashmiris.

It was owing to jingoism of India that the Crown Prince delayed his visit to Pakistan by one day and visit of the Taliban to Islamabad was also cancelled. Highly successful visit of the Crown Prince to Islamabad followed by failure of Modi to extract a statement from the visitor advising Pakistan to rein in Pakistan-based terrorist groups allegedly involved in Pulwama attack thoroughly disappointed him.

Failure of UNSC to blame and condemn Pakistan, rejection of Indian accusation against Pakistan in Pulwama attack by Turkey, and Trump desisting from pointing a finger at Pakistan further upset Modi. Wholehearted support of Indian Sikhs to the marooned Kashmiris added to Modi’s woes.

Since Modi had stirred up the emotions of Hindu extremists to a high pitch and they were baying for Pakistan’s blood, he was left with no option other than undertaking some kind of a token strike inside Pakistan to pacify them. Weighing the pros and cons of each option short of war and with no human cost, it was decided to opt for air option against a civilian target under the garb of striking an imaginary training camp of JeM.           

Pakistan’s Readiness

Contrary to Modi’s warmongering and irresponsible statements, PM Imran Khan gave a balanced and mature response by offering peace and dialogue and at the same time curtly stating that “Pakistan will not think to react but will react”. Chairing the NSC meeting, he authorized the military to react with full force whenever attacked. Gen Bajwa made it clear that the Pak Army’s response will be beyond Indian expectations and will stun India. The message was loud and clear; “don’t mess up with nuclear Pakistan”! In a meeting between the Army and PAF chiefs on 25 February, they expressed satisfaction over the operational preparedness of armed forces for a befitting response to any Indian aggression.

All the three services, as well as the air defence, carried out necessary preparations to face the possible Indian threat. The PAF started flying combat air patrols (CAP) in a rotation along the eastern and northwestern borders. 

Sensing the ugly mood, Pakistan Foreign Minister expressed his apprehensions to his counterparts of other countries that India is up to something nasty and it must be restrained from undertaking a military venture against nuclear Pakistan since it will have horrendous consequences.

Indian Air Intrusions

On the night of 25/26 February, one of the CAP observed Indian jets flying towards Lahore-Sialkot border. Although it turned back when challenged, I guess it was probably a deception to distract attention from the main strike. The next batch of jets was observed by another CAP along Okara-Bahawalpur front across the border which was also a diversion. The 3rd   heavy batch of Mirage-2000s was next spotted by the CAP approaching Muzaffarabad sector-Kiran Valley. They crossed the LoC from Tangdhar salient opposite Balakot sector and penetrated 4-5 miles at 0345 a.m. When challenged by the CAP, the jets flew back in haste at 0350 a.m. after jettisoning their payload of 4 bombs at Jabba. The bombs fell at a deserted place causing no human casualty or damage to property except for uprooting some pine trees. It was not an attack on any military target but an intrusion which sought a civilian target.

Claims made by India. True to its tradition, India has claimed that the attacking jets successfully targeted JeM camps in Balakot, each bomb weighing 1000 kg and in their 21 minutes operation, they killed 350 militants and destroyed a madrassa supposed to be a training centre of JeM. The claim is preposterous, fictitious and entirely based on a figment of imaginations. This claim is similar to the one invented after the fake surgical strike conducted in AJK in September 2016, which has not been proved to this date. Indians are foolishly celebrating the fabricated victory and deriving a vicarious pleasure.

DG ISPR Press Briefing. The DG ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor conducted an elaborate press briefing today and with the help of slides, he exposed the fake story woven by India. He has extended an open invitation to the local and foreign media persons as well as diplomats to accompany him to the scene of occurrence and see for themselves and to interview the locals whether any area had been bombed/strafed by jets and whether there was any trace of human blood, or any evacuation or burial of dead bodies was carried out, and whether there was a single brick found from the debris where the bombs had landed. He stated that the Pakistan military’s response will come definitely and will be different and will surprise India.

Pakistan’s Response

Indian incursion has united the divided society and the polarized political parties. A large number of rallies have taken place in various cities to denounce Indian aggression. The nation has gelled together to face the Indian challenge squarely. The National Assembly and all the provincial assemblies have censured the blatant intrusion of Indian jets and have extended their full support to the armed forces. The PM chaired the NSC meeting today in which it was decided that a credible response will soon be given at the time and place of our choosing. After the joint parliament session tomorrow, a meeting of National Command Authority will be held.

Until and unless Pakistan gives a hard-hitting response, it will encourage India to undertake similar air violations on the pattern of ground violations in Kashmir. On the diplomatic front, we should make a similar noise as is being done by Indian media and their leaders.

The writer is a retired Brig, a war veteran, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, Member CWC PESS. asifharoonraja@gmail.com   

           

                      

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